Although this is a children's book, it is also a good book for adult ESL students. It has plenty of snow-related vocabulary (evaporation, white-out),...moreAlthough this is a children's book, it is also a good book for adult ESL students. It has plenty of snow-related vocabulary (evaporation, white-out), as well as emergency preparedness advice and explaining the difference between a winter storm watch, a winter storm warning, and a blizzard warning - information useful to adults negotiating Boston's winter for the first time.(less)
Joe McKendry's first book, Beneath the Streets of Boston, was a big hit with my students a few years ago, a book that absorbed them in, leaving some e...moreJoe McKendry's first book, Beneath the Streets of Boston, was a big hit with my students a few years ago, a book that absorbed them in, leaving some excitedly flipping pages and shouting out over interesting details, leaving others trailing off mid-sentence as the detailed text and illustrations became far more interesting than communicating with me. One Times Square is no different. His children are classmates of some of my students (I don't teach in a school, so I haven't met Mr. McKendry, nor do I teach his children), and more than one child has excitedly shown me the sneaky shout-out to his kids in one of the illustrations, then become distracted by the book and continued reading rather than remembering to return their attention to the class. Just to be clear: I love this.
With older students, McKendry's illustrations yield a wealth of ideas about how to select and present information for different purposes. He begins each era with dual illustrations, one giving us a detailed looked at the square at that time, the other a pared-down version which highlights the key changes to the neighborhood in that era. The first time, 1904, the pared-down picture has a figure standing above the subway construction in the mid-ground; a closer examination of that figure in the more detailed watercolor shows two more people talking to that first one. Many of my students have repeatedly heard, "You need more details in your writing," without having an opportunity to understand what that means or even that different kinds and amounts of details may be better for different kinds of writing. These pictures, side-by-side, give a possible access point to understanding this nuance.
The illustrations of a talented artist can bring so much more to a topic than most textbooks, limited by budgets, can accomplish with their repetitions of the same few, iconic images, stock photos which presents a flatter, more static understanding of the subject. This book contains references that may mean more to an adult reader, but will hopefully seep into a younger reader's consciousness and become a part of the complex web of understanding they have. When the book covered World War II, I half expected to see a recreation of the famous kiss from V-J Day; McKendry alludes to it with On The Town-type images of sailors, one turning back to look at a smartly-dressed woman, but allows the connection to depend on the reader.
Times Square has a seedy past, and McKendry deals well with that history. Adult entertainment is mentioned in the same breath as the other social ills which accompanied it - drugs, crime, etc., and none is dwelt upon nor illustrated vividly. My students who have read the book haven't asked questions about it, which will allow different parents to discuss those elements in whatever way they decide is appropriate for their child's age and family's values. I am glad McKendry did not whitewash those parts of Times Square's history out, and grateful that he addressed it in a way that leaves latitude for the diversity of readers.
One Times Square is an excellent book which I enthusiastically recommend to my students who will visit New York for the first time. For fluent students, the text has a wealth of detail, but for others who don't know as much English yet, the illustrations do a fantastic job of telling just as much about the history of that famous intersection.(less)
A children's book that combines architecture, poetry, and a global look at the world. The best nonfiction books nowadays provide multiple access point...moreA children's book that combines architecture, poetry, and a global look at the world. The best nonfiction books nowadays provide multiple access points for different readers with different interests, and Dreaming Up is a stellar example of that approach. Short poems, featuring heavy meter and rhyme, are laid out alongside corresponding illustrations of children at play (wooden blocks, a pillow fort, sand castles). On the opposite page, iconic buildings from around the world (Wright's Fallingwater, Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim, Gaudi's basilica) demonstrate real-world applications of whatever principle is being demonstrated through poem and play. At the end, bios, quotes and portraits of each architect provide the small-text experience for kids whose interest has been well and truly piqued - I counted myself among that number. The book has a strong message for adult readers as well, reminding us that children's play is not just good, it is necessary. A wonderful book whose one-sentence description - a children's book about architecture - doesn't begin to do it justice.(less)
The Rookie Read-About books consistently provide a clear and interesting introduction to American holidays for my ESL students, and the Cinco de Mayo...moreThe Rookie Read-About books consistently provide a clear and interesting introduction to American holidays for my ESL students, and the Cinco de Mayo volume is no exception. A few pronunciation guides seemed off ("mahr-re-AH-che"), but the pictures selected accurately portayed a variety of ethnicities and landscapes, and lightly touched upon American celebrations while emphasizing Mexican history and culture. Nothing fancy, just right.(less)
An impossible subject handled with care and sensitivity, without glossing over the tragedy. Brown made a wise decision to focus on the stories of a fe...moreAn impossible subject handled with care and sensitivity, without glossing over the tragedy. Brown made a wise decision to focus on the stories of a few victims and survivors, excluding any discussion of politics or religion and making only enough mention of al-Qaeda to explain to readers that the plane crashes were intentional acts of hatred. An excellent work that opens the door to family and class discussions, as this is a subject better taught in person rather than via the one-way street of print.(less)
Growing up with Macy's Thanksgiving parade, the balloons were special because they were soooo big and because they were familiar old friends returning...moreGrowing up with Macy's Thanksgiving parade, the balloons were special because they were soooo big and because they were familiar old friends returning once a year. Melissa Sweet, however, brings a new sense of wonder to the story: how did someone even come up with the idea? It was not as simple as enlarging balloons, as I had assumed; instead, in a way, they are marionettes flipped upside-down. Now that's the kind of creative solution I want my students exposed to.
When thinking about the experience of a child reader, furthermore, Sweet includes the usual childhood vignette well. The main of the book is about play, so why not discuss the work that balloon-creator Tony Sarg had to do as a child? There is also an realistic immediacy to a child's successful effort to get out of doing his chores that more common and more didactic "he studied hard and one day grew up to be..." lacks.
The illustrations' pastiche reminded me simultaneously of two recently-read picture books: Paul Thurlby's Alphabet and How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum. Sweet, like Thurlby, uses vintage paper to set a literally background mood. She uses other bits of vintage and contemporary flotsam to capture, as did Jessie Hartland, the chaos of creativity so convincingly that I half expected to have to rip apart a couple of pages, as if Sarg'e glues and paints had stepped right out of the pages.
Finally, it contains the best pronunciation guide ever: "Sarg rhymes with aargh!"(less)